President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed appreciation to the Chairman of ROYAL Grand Hotel, Mr. Ezzat Eid, for the multi-million investment made in Liberia. She made the assertion after she officially dedicated the new four-star edifice located at 15th Street and Tubman Blvd., on Tuesday, January 22.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian leader stressed that as the country moves toward the tenth consecutive year of peace, both Liberians and foreign residents are contributing to building a friendly and conducive environment for private capital and investment.
In the presence of a jammed-packed hall made up of business tycoons, members of the diplomatic corps, government officials, and other invited guests, President Sirleaf praised Mr. Eid for the confidence reposed in the Liberian Government by investing in the country, something which other investors should emulate.
"Your response to this effort is exemplified by this hotel, and it says that you are demonstrating confidence in the Liberian people, confidence in the future of our country, and for that we want to say thank you," President Sirleaf said. She added, "You have now raised the bar, and so all of those who will be investing in similar facilities will know that this is what is set and we expect them to equal or better what you have done."
The Liberian leader said that government remains sensitive to enhancing a good business environment in the country. "You have indicated a few things that we need to consider. Tomorrow we will be starting the inaugural meeting of the Liberian Development Alliance (LDA) which brings together government officials, partners, private sector and civil society in looking at our Agenda for Transformation and identifying how we can all work together to remove any remaining barriers to being able to promote our economy with the private sector at the core," she said.
President Sirleaf continued: "Also important in this is something you touched upon: where do the Liberians themselves fit in this whole arrangement? How do we strengthen and support Liberians to be partners in what is happening; to be able to take ownership?" she asked, adding, "Those are the issues we will be discussing in the Alliance and to find the right place where we'll have the strategies that will enable us to achieve the objectives of promoting private capital investment along with Liberianization."
She stressed the timeliness of the structure, saying that it will be of great help to the government when it hosts the High-Level Panel Meeting in Monrovia next week. The President urged Mr. Eid to also consider investing in similar facilities in other county capitals where the need exists. "You can do it again. Don't forget, it's not just Monrovia. You have all the other cities of Buchanan, Kakata, Gbarnga and Harper, and all of those other places that will appreciate something similar," she urged.
Speaking earlier, Mr. Eid, who is also President of the World Lebanese Cultural Union, described his ROYAL Grand Hotel before passionately appealing to the Government to consider the enactment of laws to grant permanent residence to all aliens who have resided in Liberia for five years or more, who are law-abiding, of good moral character, and have no criminal record.
The Lebanese business tycoon, with other multi-million-dollar investments in Liberia, proposed to Government that in order to promote investment throughout the country, businessmen with capital ranging from US$500,000 to US$1 million be given an extra incentive to invest in other counties in order to stimulate economic activities in those areas and reverse the current wave of rural-urban migration.
Mr. Eid also called on Liberians to consider using the value of their real property to acquire equity interest and participate in business ventures with foreign investors who cannot, under existing laws, own land in Liberia. "This will make for stronger commercial bonds between Liberian landowners and foreign investors, as well as assure greater benefits to them than they receive in the form of rent," he suggested.
Mr. Eid expressed thanks and appreciation to President Sirleaf and the Government for providing the enabling environment for investors to do business in Liberia. He said the construction of the multi-million- dollar structure is a clear manifestation of his confidence in Liberia as an attractive investment destination, most especially its security after years of conflict. "This is meant to signal our confidence in the level of security and calm that pervades the country," he said.
Also during the program, Mr. Jim Thompson, Chief Financial Officer of the Royal Hotel, welcomed the guests; and the daughter of Mr. Eid, Mrs. Helen Eid Hariz, Guest Relations Manager of the new ROYAL Grand Hotel, gave the vote of thanks.
As the ceremony got under way, President Sirleaf cut the ribbon, after which two plaques at the entrance, of Liberia's first and current President, Joseph Jenkins Roberts and Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, were unveiled.